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Delingpole: No, We Shouldn’t Excuse ‘White Men’ War Memorial Student Activist Girl

ALREWAS, STAFFORDSHIRE - NOVEMBER 11: A poppy sits in the hand of a statue of a fallen soldier during the annual Armistice Day Service at the Armed Forces Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum on November 11, 2015 in Alrewas, United Kingdom. People across the UK and the world gathered …
Christopher Furlong/Getty

How refreshing it is to see a spoilt, petulant, tantrum-throwing student being schooled by a grown-up.

It’s refreshing because it’s so rare.

Katharine Birbalsingh, for those who don’t know her, is the inspirational headmistress of the thriving Michaela Community School in London and is known as “Britain’s strictest teacher”.

The girl she is chastising — if only she’d gone to Michaela school, eh? — is Emily Dawes, President of the Student Union at Southampton University.

Emily got herself into the news yesterday by threatening to paint over a 1916 mural commemorating the university’s war dead. Apparently, because the fallen soldiers in the painting were all white — just like Emily is — she thought she would be striking some kind of blow for social justice.

Such was the outcry that Emily issued an apology. She has also since put her Twitter account into “protected” mode so that her stupidities are no longer visible to curious outside readers.

But the ones quoted by Breitbart London on Thursday give a flavour.

“Mark my words — we’re taking down the mural of white men in the uni Senate room, even if I have to paint over it myself,” Ms Dawes said on Twitter on Wednesday.

Minutes before, from an “All Things Black” debate, she had tweeted a picture of the mural, captioned: “ONE OF THE WOMEN JUST SAID ‘it’s nearly armistice day so are we covering up this tapestry??’ AND HOLY SHIT. FUCK YES. GRL PWR.”

Later on Wednesday night, she added: “As white people, we are so so ignorant and closed minded without even realising it. Listen to your black friends/colleagues/students and ask how you can be the ally they want!!!!!!”

Some generous souls are suggesting that now the girl has apologised all should be forgiven.

I disagree. Decide for yourself whether you think the apology was sincere.

“Firstly, and most importantly, I would like to apologize for the offense and upset I have caused with what I have said.

“I never meant to the disrespect to anyone past, present and future.

“I had no intention of the tweet being taken literally, and upon reflection have realised how inappropriate it was.

“My intention was to promote strong, female leadership and not the eradication and disrespect of history. I do not believe that to make progress in the future, we should look to raise the past.”

I call that the desperate arse-saving gesture of someone who strayed too far over the line and got caught, not of someone who is genuinely repentant. Note, for example, the non-apology apology formula: she’s sorry for the “offense and upset” caused, not for what she actually said which was merely — PC therapy speak alert — “inappropriate”. This is followed by the self-exculpatory invocation of girl power — “strong, female leadership” — which presumably she imagines is going to make everything OK. Also, either the Daily Mail or Emily can’t spell “raze”. I’m guessing Emily…

Unlike Pollard and Emily’s other white knight defenders, I cannot agree that this is an issue we should simply forget about. Emily is a paid representative of the university — she gets upwards of £20,000 during her year as Union president. Not only did she incite vandalism to a treasured part of the university’s fabric but she brought the name of Southampton University into disrepute. We know that from the University of Missouri to the nonsense at Oriel College, Oxford (which allowed itself to be hijacked by the Rhodes Must Fall campaign) these student activism antics have a strong negative impact on alumni donations — and also put people off coming to study at the affected institutions. Can such damage be undone by an apology dashed off in a few minutes? I’d say not.

You could argue that poor little rich girl Emily — who lives in a $1.2 million home in Vienna, Virginia — is the unfortunate product of a toxic culture obsessed with identity politics. And I agree. If she hadn’t been exposed to the usual student activism cocktail of #MeToo #BlackLivesMatter and the rest, I dare say she’d be a perfectly pleasant, reasonable human being.

But she did what she did, the damage has been done, and she should be held properly accountable for her actions. Not because she’s really any worse or deserving of punishment than the vast echo chamber of SJW activists all around her, but simply pour encourager les autres.

“Pour encourager les autres” (“to encourage the others”) was, of course, Voltaire’s sardonic commentary on the decision by the British Admiralty in 1754 to hang one of its Admirals (Byng) for showing insufficient zeal in the face of the enemy.

Byng didn’t deserve this. But as the naval historian N.A.M. Rodger has argued, his cruel and unfair death worked wonders on the attitude of the Royal Navy’s officers thereafter, creating

“…a culture of aggressive determination which set British officers apart from their foreign contemporaries, and which in time gave them a steadily mounting psychological ascendancy. More and more in the course of the century, and for long afterwards, British officers encountered opponents who expected to be attacked, and more than half expected to be beaten, so that [the latter] went into action with an invisible disadvantage which no amount of personal courage or numerical strength could entirely make up for.”

It’s time, I believe, that our universities took a harder line on the wilder excesses of student political activism.

Of course, students are perfectly entitled to their half-baked silly views — the product of drugs, booze, peer-pressure, and unformed frontal lobes. But that entitlement ceases at the point where it threatens the fabric and reputation of the university, the well-being of other students, or the intellectual freedoms and academic integrity of the institution.

I’d say that Emily failed on pretty much every count. One of the jobs of a Student Union president is to represent all students. Yet here she was, clearly discriminating against the majority for no better reason than that they have white skin, while fomenting an atmosphere of grievance and resentment, as well as pouring scorn on and threatening one of the university’s most treasured relics, and defiling its traditions and its heritage. And this clearly wasn’t a “Sorry, I was completely off my face on drink and drugs”, high-jinks accident. What the tweets make perfectly clear is that this was the thought-through consequential behaviour of an aggressively left-wing political outlook.

That, I’d say, was a firing offence. (Or a resignation offence, if she preferred.)

Certainly, in my day at university you would have been sent down for far less. There was an understanding among undergraduates back then that while the university was your playground you were ultimately answerable to the grown-ups who ran it.

Kids like Emily have been indulged for far too long. Our universities are suffering because of it. It’s long past time they got a grip.

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